COPD Research News Round Up

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Eleven million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COPD, and experts estimate that millions more may be undiagnosed.

There is currently no cure for COPD, but there are treatment options. The latest COPD research is exploring new treatments while evaluating how effective current options are, while working to further understand COPD risk factors. In honor of COPD month, we've gathered some of the latest research news and treatments in development.

Oxygen therapy for COPD patients may not help in the long run

For the last few decades, doctors have prescribed long-term oxygen therapy to COPD patients in the belief that the treatment extends lives. But a follow-up study suggests that the original research, conducted in the 1980s, was flawed, and that long-term oxygen therapy does not decrease mortality. It also decreases quality of life, the study found.

In long-term oxygen therapy, a patient breathes oxygen from a tank for more than 15 hours a day, for more than 90 days. Patients must carry a five-pound portable oxygen tank at virtually all times.

Oxygen therapy is also very expensive, costing several hundred dollars a month. Increasingly, Medicare has been reluctant to pay for it.

"Throughout medicine there are practices and treatments that continue simply because they have always been done," said Neera Agrwal, MD, PhD, a hospitalist at Mayo Clinic and co-author on this study, in a press release. "But physicians have to consider new evidence and adjust accordingly, which is one of the biggest takeaways from this study."

Potential new medical device for COPD subtype

Chronic bronchitis is one of the two main forms of COPD, along with emphysema. Symptoms include producing large amounts of mucus and having a persistent cough. The standard treatment, an inhaler, doesn't get rid of symptoms for all patients. A new medical device may one day be able to better treat chronic bronchitis symptoms by targeting the abnormal, mucus-producing cells in a patient's airways.

This treatment, called RheOx, would use short bursts of electrical energy, delivered through a catheter, into the airways. In early studies, the treatment replaced the abnormal cells that created large amounts of mucus with new cells that produced less mucus.

Clinical trials for medical devices work a little differently from drug trials. They tend to enroll fewer patients, and generally don't use a placebo. Because this is an early trial for the RheOx, only two patients have been enrolled so far. If the treatment is found safe, a new trial will recruit more patients.

COPD rates and risk vary across the United States

COPD affects patients around the U.S., but some states are hit harder than others, according to a new report. In West Virginia, for example, nearly 6% of adults have been diagnosed with COPD, according to new research on COPD rates and risk across the country.

The report also investigated what other conditions people with COPD tend to have. It found, for example, that more than 50% of people with COPD also have depression.

States in Appalachia, the Mississippi delta, and parts of the South had the worst outcomes in the survey, but no state passed with flying colors.

Researchers hope their findings will influence public health initiatives in each state. For example, COPD patients who receive flu vaccinations reported better outcomes. Knowing more about the factors that improve life with COPD in general can lead to better, more personalized treatments for patients.

If you're interested in getting involved in COPD research, start searching for your clinical trial match below.